Political pandering in the guise of protection
Extreme quarantine policies in New York and New Jersey do more harm than good, and hurt American heroes
Kaci Hickox risked her life to help fight the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, but she returned home not to praise and commendation but to solitary confinement in a plastic tent.
Despite testing negative for Ebola, Hickox spent a weekend in an isolation tent in a Newark hospital.
Ebola is, of course, a serious illness and a serious threat. Every guideline should be followed and procedure strictly enforced. The consequences that ensue when rules are ignored and behavior is lax have already been made clear in Dallas.
There’s no argument against the practice of quarantines and vigilance. Health workers – or anyone – returning to America from West Africa absolutely need to be tested and isolated in quarantine until their status is determined. That’s just common sense.
The risk of even a single exposure outweighs the annoyance of quarantine, even when it’s individuals returning from saving lives in Africa who are being inconvenienced.
But when politicians use the severity of this situation to their benefit, they’re only protecting themselves.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie made his backwards, self-centered priorities all too visible when he ordered that Hickox remain confined, despite criticism from medical experts and the White House, who argued that she posed no threat to the population.
Policies like Christie’s, as members of the Obama administration pointed out, would discourage other medical professionals from volunteering in West Africa, where their assistance is vital in combatting Ebola.
Christie, who is predicted to pursue a presidential run in 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, up for re-election this November, clearly felt that projecting a hardline image took priority over sensible policy – and Hickox’s well being.
Both Cuomo and Christie criticized federal guidelines and argued that high-risk travelers go through mandatory quarantine. But once it became apparent that their tough-guy act wasn’t winning over the public – shockingly, a nurse retuning from fighting Ebola in Africa is a more sympathetic figure than Christie – the politicians backed off.
Christie, backpedaling like made, allowed Hickox to return to her home in Maine to finish her 21-day quarantine, rudely dismissing her threats to sue and pretending that he and the White House had never disagreed about her treatment in the first place.
Meanwhile Cuomo wised up to the influence of the White House, or more probable, checked his approval ratings and decided that home quarantines would be sufficient after all.
Politics took priority over public safety, and Christie and Cuomo should be ashamed of themselves.
Because America – and the world – needs people willing to take risks and make sacrifices.
We need people like Hickox, individuals who will help fight the Ebola epidemic on the ground, who will bring expertise and assistance to countries that desperately need it.
That’s the first step in protecting America. What hurts West Africa hurts us, too – if the epidemic worsens elsewhere, the likelihood of its spread increases.
American health workers who go to Africa are essentially joining the front lines in one of the most dangerous battles in the world right now.
When these veterans return home, they deserve to be welcomed as heroes, not political pawns.